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Straight Party Voting vs. E-votin' in NM and IA

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-25-05 04:09 PM
Original message
Straight Party Voting vs. E-votin' in NM and IA
Historically, straight party voting (SP) has favored Democrats by about 1%, according to this reference and the citations therein:

<http://www.umsl.edu/~kimballd/kspp02.pdf >

This is because there are fewer undervotes with SP and also because it makes it easier and less time-consuming to vote for all offices on the ballot.

Democratic state legislatures have therefore tried to keep straight party voting as an option in their states, while some Republicans have tried to remove it.

But what if there were a way to "satisfy" both parties? Suppose you could keep the straight party option without giving the Democrats an advantage?

Well, it just so happens that our friendly e-votin' machine vendors have figured out a way to do just that.

In Diebold's GEMS system, for example, you can have straight party voting set up to only include certain candidates in the straight party option. Not just certain races mind you, such as President which is done according to law in NC and SC, but even individual candidates in a race can be excluded from straight party voting. All you have to do is assign them the "No Party" (NP) Voter Group Endorsement in GEMS.

Could this option have been erroneously or deliberately assigned to a presidential candidate in the 2004 election, such as, oh, I don't know....John Kerry maybe??? And if so, in which states could it have made a difference in the outcome of the election?

Well, even Kerry's brother Cam, who did not push for a recount in OH, has suggested that the race in NM was close enough to recount. Too bad they didn't have any voter-verified paper audit records to actually count though.

Bush took NM by only 5,988 votes after Gore won it in 2000 by a few hundred votes. Bush's victory in NM is reported as a margin of 1%, however using 2-party numbers, it's really only 0.8% and counting all parties, it's only 0.79%.

NM also has SP voting, so if the historical Democratic advantage of 1% could somehow be neutralized, that would be just enough to swing 5 Electoral Votes to a Republican, wouldn't it?

Now, look at Iowa:

Bush won by 10,059 votes there. That's only 0.67% of the 2-party vote, but it's also reported as 1%. (I guess CNN didn't want to use too many bytes of there ISP's bandwidth.) And like NM, IA had SP voting too. And just like NM, IA went for Al Gore in 2000 by a slim margin of only about 0.3%. Do they have e-votin' in IA too? You bet!

Now if you add up the Electoral Votes from NM and IA you get 12. If the results were reversed, that would bring Bush's total to 274 and Kerry's to 264. Still not enough to "Kerry" the election. There were however other swing states with SP voting that Kerry actually won, but only by the slimmest of margins and less than Gore's margin in 2000. Did they have e-voting too, and who was in charge of those states, Democratic or Republican Governors?

The point here is simply to show that the straight party effect that has historically favored Democrats by about 1% can be neutralized by certain e-votin' machine configurations enough to change the outcome of a close election in some important swing states. And this, unlike a state legislature making a change in voting procedures, does not have to be voted on by anyone.
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justgamma Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-25-05 05:33 PM
Response to Original message
1. I voted absentee in Iowa
for the first time. I was told that straight party voting does NOT include a vote for president. That must be marked separately. I always wondered how many people weren't told.
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-25-05 08:04 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Wow. I thought this was only the rule in the Carolinas.
Could have gotten undervotes for President that way, perhaps in both parties, but also perhaps aimed in a particular direction, which the machines can be set up to do.

Suppose Bush was included in the GOP SP, but Kerry wasn't in the Dem SP?

I know there were some registered Dems in IA who voted Bush too. I talked to them on the phone while making calls for Kerry. Very hard to deal with but they were Dems none the less so they got to vote Dem in the caucuses for local seats.
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berniew1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 12:01 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. How much was the fact st. Dem vote doesn't include Kerry publicized
in North Carolina and South Carolina, and what percent of voters likely understood the implications??
I noted that some poll workers were giving voters misinformation on this, in several states.
see EIRS reports
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berniew1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-25-05 11:59 PM
Response to Reply #1
6. from the EIRS reports its obvious lots of people lost vote on st. party v
Edited on Sat Mar-26-05 12:04 AM by berniew1
Kerry lost votes due to way straight party votes compiled in about 10 states that I'm aware of. And it may have affected some other races as well. Its obvious that there were some strange defaults in some states like Texas and Indiana. But there were a lot of states where voters did not understand what happened to their presidential vote on straight party vote, and that it did not automatically go to kerry. And I think a few counties in Ohio & Florida had this problem, and the election was close in both if there had been a fair eleciton and counting system.
http://www.flcv.com/ussumall.html
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ISUGRADIA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 08:38 AM
Response to Reply #1
9. Whoever told you this was wrong
Under the Iowa Code and Administrative rules any straight party vote includes ALL candidates for a party including President. Otherwise that option would make no sense.
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 11:28 AM
Response to Reply #9
12. Two issues:
Edited on Sat Mar-26-05 11:28 AM by Bill Bored
First you are assuming that the law was followed to the letter. Are Diebold, or the other E-votin' techs election lawyers? I doubt it. So you have to keep very close tabs on them to make sure they configure the software correctly, or you have to learn how to do it yourself. This is management/training issue. Multinational Corps. might be able to handle it, but can a local or state BOE?

Second, the option could still make sense because it would ensure that the candidates further down the ticket would get more votes, instead of voter fatigue kicking in. This is the law in NC and SC AFAIK (President excluded from SP voting), but I agree that it's not the law in IA.
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ISUGRADIA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 06:55 PM
Response to Reply #12
16. Thanks, my issue was (I should have been more clear)
that if a county auditor or staff at the courthouse had said this to someone it should have been investigated. It is required (a key assumption) that all candidates from a party included in straight party ticket voting in Iowa. So I think it is important to examine vote totals at the county and precinct level to find out if the law was followed. And Democratic Sec of State (such as in IA)need to monitor things closely at the county level.
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Chi Donating Member (921 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 01:31 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. You might wanna double check that....
Heya ISUGRADIA (waves)

" 4 30 EXPLANATION
4 31 This bill abolishes straight party voting in the general
4 32 election and all other elections in which more than one
4 33 partisan office will be filled.
4 34 LSB 1527HH 79
4 35 sc/cf/24"

http://www.legis.state.ia.us/GA/79GA/Legislation/HF/000...
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ISUGRADIA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 06:49 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. Thanks for the reply, the bill you cited did not pass and there are
still efforts to get rid of straight party voting in Iowa. But in 2004 it was still on Iowa ballots as an option. (Sample ballots I saw published had it)
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Chi Donating Member (921 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 01:37 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. Understood...
I should have looked deeper.
Thanks for the response.
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berniew1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-30-05 11:13 PM
Response to Reply #9
25. But that was true other places also, and compilers didn't count for Kerry
In Indiana, contrary to their law; Kerry's votes were given to Peroultka. In Texas straight party Dem meant the presidential vote went to Bush. In N.C. & S. C. a straight party vote doesn't give a vote to Kerry. etc. lots of other states

The computer compilers can be programmed to give all to any candidate you prefer or every other one to someone else or every 10th to someone else. What ever you want the numbers to be.
And from the EIRS reports its obvious that in at least 10 states a lot of the straight Dem ticket votes were not compiled for Kerry.

what is compiled has nothing to do with voter intent or law; its what those in charge of the compilers want that counts.
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Stevepol Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-25-05 05:52 PM
Response to Original message
2. Good theorizing. No telling how it was done, but it was done!!!
No question the fix was in. Your theory sounds as good as any. There are a lot of ways that all mistakes like under- or over-votes or some other miscellaneous errors can all be defaulted to the Repub side.

I suspect that's the basis of the machines' bias, but they can also be hacked or patched or just "re-adjusted" using existing built-in doors, etc., in particular the central tabulators, to give any result desired for the whole election.

I don't think that method of total "re-adjustment" was used in every state (in KS e.g. where I live, there's no threat of the Dems winning, so the fix wasn't in. Here Kerry even did slightly better than the exit polls said he did).

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-25-05 08:09 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Right. But the stuff I'm talking about is clearly possible without having
to patch or change the programming at all. It's a feature of the programming in fact. I think it's important to bring this out because we have no direct evidence of code tampering at this point, and IMO, we don't need any. The software can be exploited enough as is. They didn't need a Clint Curtis to do that.
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Melissa G Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-25-05 10:06 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. kick for BB! n/t
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jfern Donating Member (394 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 03:35 AM
Response to Original message
8. Someone should pass a law
making it illegal to have something that claims that it's straight party voting when it really isn't.
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ISUGRADIA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 08:43 AM
Response to Original message
10. OK, I am trying to understand this logic
Because looking at one county's vote in Iowa the undervote for president was .5% and the straight party Dem vote was like 3%. So shouldn't the undervote be at least 3% because no kerry votes came from straight party voting? Wouldn't this undervote patter stand out, especially in counties with high straight party voting.
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 11:20 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. First of all, thanks for taking an interest!
The answer to your question is: not necessarily.

Suppose some Dem straight party votes went to a third party candidate such as Badnarik. The software allows this configuration also. See this thread:
<http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph... >

Also if it's a Diebold county, Diebold doesn't call an undervote an undervote in their reports UNLESS you can vote for more than one candidate for a particular office and the voter chooses fewer candidates. E.g., suppose you can vote for 4 judges, and you only pick 3. That's called an "Undervote" by Diebold. But you can only vote for 1 President and if you don't pick one, Diebold calls this a "Blank Vote" not an "Undervote." So it depends on who's reading the reports and how they are parsing and interpreting them. This may be Diebold-specific.

If you want, post a link so more people can look at the data.
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ISUGRADIA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 06:44 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. Thanks for your reply
Edited on Sat Mar-26-05 06:45 PM by ISUGRADIA
Your explaination made things clearer. Here's the Story County Iowa 2004 election report (PDF format):


http://www.storycounty.com/auditor/GEMSSOVCREPORT2.pdf


And it is a Diebold county, paper ballots with tabulator.


7029 straight party voting D, 7042 straight party voting R, 34 IA Green, 121 Libertarian.


It's one of the few IA counties that post detailed election results (at least that I could find) It would be interesting to see if anyone can find numbers that might stand out.


ON EDIT: straight party info on page 2 of the report.

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-29-05 09:31 PM
Response to Reply #14
19. I forgot to mention the lack of the PA Straight Party Option
in IA and NM. What this means is that on Diebold Touch Screens, if you want to vote straight party, but cross-party for President, you must vote the Straight Party FIRST and THEN change your vote for President after that to have it count. In other words, Republicans for Kerry would not have their Kerry vote counted unless they voted in the following sequence:

1. Straight Party Repub
2. Remove Bush Selection for Pres
3. Select Kerry for Pres

Dems for Bush (and I know there were some in IA) would have the same problem though, so it's not clear how this would affect the outcome.

I'll look at the Story Cty pdf, although it's Op Scan and may not be quite as temperamental as the DREs.
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-28-05 04:28 AM
Response to Original message
18. .
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-30-05 04:03 PM
Response to Original message
20. SURPRISING ABSENTEE RESULTS IN STORY COUNTY, IA!
Edited on Wed Mar-30-05 04:06 PM by Bill Bored
We need to investigate this further and probably start a new thread, but check this out:

Total Presidential Vote:
Bush=20819; Kerry=23296; Diff=(-2477)
Bush %=46.63; Kerry %=52.17
Kerry won the county.

Now look at the Absentee Vote:
Bush=5703; Kerry=9652; Diff=(-3949)
Bush %=36.81; Kerry %=62.30
Kerry won the Absentee vote by a landslide!

Now look at the Non-Absentee (Polling Place) votes:
Bush=15116; Kerry=13644; Diff=1472
Bush %=52.56; Kerry %=47.44 (2-party)
Kerry LOST Non-Absentee Voting!

Who cares?

Well, first of all, Kerry got almost 4,000 more votes than Bush on the Absentee Ballots in just this one county in IA, which accounted for his entire victory margin in the county and then some. But Bush won the Non-Absentee voting in the SAME county. In other words, the results of Absentee Voting and Polling Place Voting in the SAME county were REVERSED!

And why should we care about that?

Well, keep in mind that Bush only won the state of IA by about 10,000 votes, so a difference of 4,000 absentee votes in just one county could be very significant.

So here's the question:

Why did Kerry win the absentee vote by a landslide and lose at the polls in the same county?

The county uses Diebold Op Scans so the Absentee Ballots should be the same type as the Polling Place ones i.e., paper ballots generated by GEMS. So why the difference in the absentee and polling place outcomes?

For one thing, GEMS considers Absentee Votes and Polling Place Votes to be separate Voter Groups. So they could have been defined with different parameters in the software.

Also, Straight Party voting (SP) accounted for 42% of Absentee Voting but only 17% of Polling Place Voting. So a deliberate or accidental mis-configuration of the straight party options, or the instructions to voters on how to vote Straight Party could account for the discrepancy.

Look at these SP voting totals:

Straight Party Absentee:
Repub=2260; Dem=3645; Diff=(-1385)
Assuming the usual party loyalties of ~90%, Kerry wins Absentee SP Voting.

Straight Party Polling Place:
Repub=4782; Dem=3384; Diff=1398
Bush won the SP Polling Place Voting.

While this doesnt explain the entire reversal between Absentee and Polling Place Voting, it is generally consistent with the non-straight party voting results.

The answer does not seem to be directly related to undervotes as there were less than 100 altogether.

I think we need to look at this further, but Im posting it now to get it out there so people can speculate.

Here again is the link provided by ISUGRADIA with the Story County results:
<http://www.storycounty.com/auditor/GEMSSOVCREPORT2.pdf >
Note that only Total Votes and Absentee Votes are given, so you have to extrapolate the Polling Place Votes from this data. They are therefore hidden, but they are in there!

Does anyone know if its common to see such a large discrepancy between absentee and polling place results in the same county or should we suspect fowl play?

If we can show that a hotly contested swing state such as IA may have gotten the results wrong, the next steps are obvious.


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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-30-05 04:12 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. An incident report from EIRS about Story County, IA
Edited on Wed Mar-30-05 04:16 PM by Bill Bored
"According to http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=... county Auditor Mary Mosiman closed a satellite station at Iowa State University early despite voters being in line, then refused to open an additional satellite later to rectify the problem."

From the above article

>>
Mosiman, a Republican, "had the opportunity to make good on what appeared to be an honest mistake, but she didn't take that advantage of that opportunity," said Amber Hard, state director of the Iowa New Voters Project."

Jim Hutter, a political science professor at ISU and Mosiman's challenger in Tuesday's election, said Saturday he was "shocked at how Mary Mosiman finds ways to keep people from voting instead of helping them to vote."
>>

Hmmmmm....and now we have evidence that Bush won at the polls even though he lost the absentee vote BIG TIME.
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-30-05 04:22 PM
Response to Reply #20
22. Do we have data showing the absentee vote for 2000?
Was there a big increase in folks voting absentee?
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-30-05 06:33 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. Beats me.
I was hoping ISUGRADIA would respond since he/she is probably "on the ground" as they say on the TV. But after I double check all the figures, I'll start a new thread. Maybe I'll call it "KOEB." At least someone will read it then! ;)
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ISUGRADIA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-30-05 10:46 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. I'm back with an answer There is a legit explaination for
the huge difference in the Dem v Rep absentee v polling place totals i.e why the Dems did do much better in absentee. From the Iowa caucuses on to Nov 2004 the Iowa Dem Party had an absentee ballot solicitation program to get people to vote early. This was to have votes in the bank so to speak so they could concentrate efforts on undecided/leaners.The problem was there was so much time spent on absentees and retrieving absentees that the election day ploans were not well developed (my opinion). So Kerry people voted early, but the Republicans were better in getting the vote out in there core area (most of Western Iowa). The 2002 figures for Story County were similar in the Dem dominance of absentees, but there was a bit better statewide effort on election day, Dems took 6 of 7 statewide offices. And it was not all bad in IA, the absentees in certain counties worked great moving the Dems to 49D-51R in the IA House and 25-25 Split in the IA Senate.


Some links about the IA Dem Party Absentee effort:


http://www.blogforiowa.com/blog/_archives/2004/9/7/1351...


http://www.dmregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20...


"Democrats, who successfully pushed the use of absentee ballots in 2000 and 2002, appear to have some advantages in the race for early ballots so far. They have more people working on the effort in Iowa - a total of 180 between two groups, compared with Republicans' 50."

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-30-05 11:34 PM
Response to Reply #24
26. You must be Poli Sci Major!
The explanation is logical, but on the other hand, if someone had advance knowledge of how things were going due to early voting, they might be motivated to hack the vote on Election Day, if only for the top of the ticket.

Also, was all the early voting absentee? It seems like some of it took place at polls too. See the EIRS incident above. Thanks.
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ISUGRADIA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-31-05 12:45 AM
Response to Reply #26
27. Pol Sci Major and Master Degree, in fact so number crunchin' is my hobby
Good question, not all voting was via mail in absentee, there were "satellite" or early voting stations on the ISU campus and other sites in Ames accd. to the newspapers. No breakdown of what was early and what was mail-in but absentees are handled the same. That is ballots sealed in envelopes, counted by the absentee board, no early voting on tabulators.


The 2004 satellite voting was a major news story TV, Ames , Iowa State, Des Moines newspapers) that the Secretary of State was involved with. Rules were not followed as to allowing students who were waiting in line the chance to vote. Big mess up.


Since this was a precinct count county, I do think any vote hacking would be difficult. There would have to be access to the tabulator memory cards in advance and knowlege of individual precincts to make sure a "funny" result would not stand out. I'm just not sure about hacking tabulators as the main way of supressing the vote. I see DREs as the perfect media for manipulation with no trail. A paper ballot will always be there (or at least for 22 months following a federal election in Iowa).


ANd good old voting roll purges, felon lists, pollwater intimidation, requiring photo ids, and reventing college students from voting (in many states, Iowa has not seem to have this problem).

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-31-05 11:02 AM
Response to Reply #27
28. Are you saying that the ballots cast at the satellites AND the Absentees
were all counted manually? I.e., ALL Early Voting ballots were counted manually?

Precinct count Op Scans (Diebold Accuvote OS) are still programmed via GEMS. You don't need to hack the hardware. Read on.

I agree that OpScan ballots are harder to screw up after they've been printed, but prior to that, the names can be easily be reversed on the ballot, but not in the database. This results in the vote totals being reversed in the database. Any way to find out when the Election Day ballots were printed?

Of course, the database totals can be altered after the election too.

Also (and this is a completely separate issue) could ballot rotation have been used to scan ballots in the wrong machines to reverse votes? I'm not sure how they are coded to prevent this. On the OH punchcards for example, it's done with a single header card for each precinct. Not very secure. Do you have ballot rotation in IA?

Other ways to exploit Diebold Accuvote Op Scans in GEMS are to turn off the error checking for over- and under-votes (which is actually OFF by default!), and to set up a counting option called "Combined" which causes the straight-party as well as the cross-party candidate selection to be discarded if they are both selected for the same race. And again, this can happen without a warning to the voter. (I know there was only about a 0.25% undervote in the county though, and this was lower for the Election Day Ballots.)

Perhaps you are in a position to organize a recount of the Election Day ballots? They are paper and you can probably get some students to help you if you're at ISU. You could say it's for a thesis or something.

Consider that even though the winner of the Election Day Voting was Bush instead of Kerry, his margin was still quite a bit less than Kerry's Early Voting margin. This is NOT inconsistent with your hypothesis that Kerry really did do better in Early Voting than on Election Day. If the E-Day totals were swapped, Kerry would have won the day, but by a much smaller margin than in the Early Voting.

Think about it.
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ISUGRADIA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-31-05 04:57 PM
Response to Reply #28
29. I should have been clearer
all absentee (mail & satellite) ballots go an absentee board and are run through a tabulator on election day. In some states it appears voters vote early via tabulators or DRE (the results are not run until election day) rather than on paper ballots that are not counted until election day.


There is ballot rotation in Iowa but only for lower offices (county ag board, hospital trustee) otherwise if Kerry is first on the ballot, Bush second, etc, it will appear that way on all ballot rotations for a county (which also occur because of different state rep, senator also).


I've moved out of Iowa and still have relatives in Story County, Polk other ones who keep me updated on elections. I do know ballots cannot be examined unless 1) there is a recount (time has passed for that) or 2) by court order. Otherwise they are boxed at the polls on election night, sealed, and never opened otherwise before destruction 22 months later.


Interesting comments about the GEMS software. Could a activist check for this during the public test? In Iowa anyone can attend and have ten ballots marked anyway he or she chooses. Then again I know test and real may be drwaing from different software instructions and real could be tampered with and not test.

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-01-05 09:35 PM
Response to Reply #29
30. Good questions.
You could do some pretty serious testing if you had the actual ballots to be used for the election. But as you say, the options could be changed afterward. Unless there are already live election results, you can change anything you want before the election except the printed ballots.

And early voting is a separate election entirely as far as I know.

The problem with getting these recounts is that no one wants to do or approve them unless it can change the outcome. For President, this is hard. Ohio or FL alone could do it, but even IA and NM together wouldn't be enough. The danger is that you don't improve the system or learn from your mistakes if you can't discover them.
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